Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Average Person Wanted - Only Stupid People Need Apply

okay, i really had to laugh at this article. A Durban businessman has put up signs advertising jobs for "attractive indian cashiers", a "pretty black floor supervisor, no fatties" and a "smart white salesladies supervisor". People are, naturally, up in arms about it, as people love any excuse at all to be up in arms.

Now, there are really three discrimination issues going on here: race, appearance and weight. maybe also intelligence, depending on how he meant 'smart'. The Advertising Standards Authority and the Human Rights Commission are both generally in agreement that some discrimination is ok as long as it's warranted for the job and is not seen as unfair or injuring anyone's dignity.

so, is it fair to discriminate against someone's race for a job application? affirmative action tells us yes. so really, i have no problem with the racial issue. if you can tell someone that only blacks need apply for a job, you can tell them only indians need apply. otherwise it really is discrimination.

is it fair to discriminate against someone's appearance for a job application? i think it's naive to assume that looks and presentation do not form a part of success in any job. In some jobs like modelling looks are a requirement. In customer service and sales, i believe a person should at the very least be presentable and not repulsively ugly. Scaring away the clients is not good for business, and neither is looking untidy or generally scruffy, so specifying pretty, attractive and smart are not, imho, unfair discrimination for these jobs. And if he was using smart in the sense of intelligent, it is definitely not an issue to expect a certain level of intelligence from a supervisor.

lastly, is it fair to discriminate against someone's weight for a job? in some cases this may be seen to be unfair, but i can imagine instances where an overweight person may not be as suitable to a job as someone smaller. Pilots, for example, are discriminated against by both height and weight. Jockeys. Race car drivers. What if the area behind the desk where the salesperson has to stand is very small? Granted, i know i'm being slightly facetious with that last one, but there are cases where discrimination against weight or size are acceptable. Maybe not in this instance (and using the term 'fatties' is definitely a no-no) but there are cases where it is a valid criterion.

In general, i think people should have every right to specify the qualities that they want in an employee, only drawing the line at actually insulting someone. It avoids wasting the time of both the interviewer and the applicant. I personally do not want to go through the whole application process to find out at the interview that they're only looking for a black person, or a man, or someone with an arts degree. If you are offended by a job advertisement that says 'chinese person only', then you need to seriously think about how you feel about your racial and cultural identity, especially if it's a chinese shop and you can't speak a word of mandarin. If you see a job that says 'intelligent people only' and you don't think you fall into that category, don't be insulted. A fact is a fact, and not everyone can be a rocket scientist. And if you are overweight, and you see a sign saying 'thin actor needed to play anorexic character in stage production', do not feel insulted. The same goes for a 90-pound weakling with allergies being offended by an ad that says 'large lady needed for circus act. Must be more than 200 pounds or the elephant will drag you off stage. Must be willing to wear lycra'.

Really, short of being nasty, i don't see a problem in telling someone up front what you need for the job. Rather be honest. In the same way that you specify academic qualifications, we must admit that there are other things that qualify you for a job. I would much rather they were stated up front, rather than never stated and just being told you don't qualify.

But given our namby-pamby, pc society, these days we have to tiptoe around every issue, because we might offend someone. A short while ago, the Tattler had to publically apologise for describing a wanted felon as a 'tall black man in his 30s or 40s' or something like that. because they said he was black. which is totally a required piece of information for identifying him. Seriously, wtf???


Blogger totalwaste said...

well, i'm amused. and totally in agreement.

w-v: largest quarantine box quarantines xylophones (my word, i'm totally out of vocabulary for that one... and i cheated by repeating...)

September 13, 2005 10:31 PM  

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